Monday, February 23, 2009

Tiny Tigers

Now here's a really wild herd. Thought I'd post this while putting together material from my research on buffaloes in Champaign County.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Just Trying to Impress the Ladies: Skull Crashing at Yellowstone

Photographer Dan Cooper captures the impact of two buffaloes pounding heads at Yellowstone during the rut . . .

. . . and then the referee steps in.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Television Worth Watching

A favorite photo, a print of this hangs in my home. This is Lone Flag of the Atsina band of the Arapaho tribe, photographed in 1908. He holds an eagle wing that he used for a fan. Lone Flag was born in northwestern Montana in 1854. The nomadic Atsinas roamed the plains between the Missouri and Saskatchewan Rivers in Montana and Canada, following the buffalo herds, living in tepees and trading with other Indians for goods and produce. By 1888 the Atsina had been removed to a reservation at Fort Belknap, Montana.

I saw a brief blurb about THIS new PBS mini-series, which will begin in April. With so much garbage and gloom on television these days, this series should be an enlightening ray of sunshine.

Happy Birthday to THE MAN

Photo of Lincoln taken in November 1863, two weeks before he delivered the Gettysburg Address.

Lincoln quotation, a message for today: "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crises. The great point is to bring them the real facts."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Little Bull, the Party Animal

Grandson Devin, now a year old, received a wardrobe of Illini clothing at a belated birthday party last night.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Friday, February 06, 2009

Red Chief and the Night of the Raptors

My favorite birds: great horned owl (left) and red-tailed hawk.

How do you make a six-year-old kid smile, get goofy, and stare in amazement? Stuff him with pizza and crazy bread and take him to a local gym to see birds. That's what I did with grandson Red Chief last night. And not just any birds . . . birds of prey . . . RAPTORS. The Illinois Raptor Center at Decatur presented an evening with five birds - a kestrel (smallest Illinois hawk), a red-tailed hawk, a barn owl, a great horned owl, and an eagle. The Center is home to 21 permanently disabled raptors, which are known for their sharp talons (claws) and bills. Red Chief and I sat in the front row just a few feet from these beautiful animals.

I have always admired great horned owls ("horns" being the tufts of feather about their ears), which are abundant throughout Illinois. I knew they were fierce hunters, but when one of the handlers opened a box full of stuffed animals, which represented some of the diet of the owl, the audience was amazed: rabbits, skunks, porcupines, cats, mice, and an array of other mammals, even small dogs, were among the stash. The great horned owl swoops down and with its sharp talons grabs its prey, which also includes amphibians, reptiles and fish. But skunks? The great horned has a lousy sense of smell, thus it is the only consistent predator of skunks. It is also a destroyer of other owls.

I took photos of the birds during the presentation, which turned out OK, but I "borrowed" the shots above to better represent two of the beautiful birds. What I really should have photographed was the wide-eyed glee and wonder of my grandson, who woke up this morning and chattered endlessly to his Princess mother about the birds.

As I stared at those proud birds last night, my thoughts drifted to animals in another place - Yellowstone. So much awaits Red Chief and my other grandson, Little Bull: bears, wolves, coyotes, elk . . . and of course the mightly buffalo. Let's hope that wondrous land out West and its wildlife can be preserved as much as possible. It's amazing how wildlife can survive and prosper despite our intrusions on the land. When I saw a red fox dash across my back yard last spring it gave me hope.

Monday, February 02, 2009

A Decade of the Riddle Run: "It's all about the cupcakes."

Me (left) with fellow buffalo Jeff Riddle at the Buffalo Trace trail for Riddle Run 10. Always run in January no matter what the weather.

Riddle Run 10, a runfest on the Buffalo Trace trail at Mahomet, was held this past Saturday, with race director Jeff Riddle promoting his namesake run in his usual dictatorial rant: "You absolutely must be low key and fun. You must not be a wimp, a whiner, or a complainer. You must not give excuses, die, get hurt or sue. If you are, or do, any of these things you will be disqualified and not eligible for any awards." We don't take Jeff seriously. The awards consist of a roll of toilet paper for the first male to finish 28 miles and a small stuffed buffalo toy for the female winner. For the rest of us? It's all about the cupcakes. For each Riddle Run Jeff's wife Debbie has made cream-filled cupcakes, and this year the Riddle kitchen turned out 125 cupcakes for the registered runners.

I am one of only two runners that have completed at least one four-mile loop of the trail in all 10 runs. It is my favorite running event because it is such fun running a trail, having big campfires to get warm, and good food and drink. AND, the cupcakes. The race has a motto that sums up the run pretty well: "A man must love a thing very much if he not only practices it without any hope of fame and money, but even practices it without any hope of doing it well."